ACU's graduating seniors ride emotional roller coaster
during 1999 undergraduate commencement
For immediate release
May 8, 1999
With more than 5,000 attending, a plethora of camera
flashes strobing the interior of Moody Coliseum and constant
eruptions of cheers, applause, air horns and shouts of
"hallelujah," 424 Abilene Christian University seniors shook
hands with ACU president Royce Money and graduated with
The mood of the one-and-one-half hour ceremony swayed
from sentimental and reflective to boisterously celebratory.
Blair Thomas, 1999 senior class president, initiated a
serious tone with a charge, not only to the seniors, but to
all in the audience.
"Let's not despair wondering who will provide tools to
change the world, but realize we are the tools to change the
world," he said.
Dr. Willard Tate, associate professor of communication,
also delivered a charge to the graduating seniors in similar
tone. "Don't ever let anything come in God's number one
place," he said.
In the world, he explained, people have one great enemy -
"Time is your enemy, disguised as your friend," Tate
said. "You have to fight for it. You'll have to fight for
time with your family. You think you have plenty of time,
but you have to make time when you're there."
Two things are most important in life, Tate told the
seniors. God is most important, and family is second. "And
don't have a family if you're not willing to sacrifice," he
Recalling his mother, Tate said his family consisted of
five boys, "and my mother fried a lot of chicken.
"But you know," he continued, "my mother never liked
white meat. She always ate the thigh. Now, do I have to
explain that story?"
Put God and family first, he emphasized, telling the
seniors a story about a jar filled with rocks. When asked if
it was full, the character in the story said no and added
small pebbles that fell between the rocks. Again, when asked
if the jar was full, the character said no and added sand.
One more time, when asked if the jar was full, the character
said no and added water.
"Now what's the lesson?" Tate asked, saying some might
say "there's always room to do a little more." But that was
not the lesson.
"If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never
get them in," he said. "And God and family are the big
With that message, Money and Dr. Dwayne VanRheenen,
provost, initiated the hooding of the graduates where a
person of each senior's choice symbolically draped a cowl
over the neck of the senior.
In most cases, the person hooding the senior was a
parent, grandparent, spouse or fiancé. And Tate's
message of putting God and family first vibrated through the
room as graduating seniors hugged and kissed those who
The mood changed, though, as each senior was introduced.
Cheers swelled as names were called to walk across the
Awards were presented, including the J.W. Roberts Greek
award, which went to Andrew Johnson, a Greek major from
Other awards included the Board of Trustees awards for
the honor and recognition the recipients have brought ACU
through their achievements, character and devotion. The
recipients included Kari Leigh Firestone, a secondary
education major from Carlsbad; Katie Jo Jacoby, a biology
major from Bedford; Paul Michael Pasarilla, a biochemistry
major from De Soto; and Kimberly Ann Seidman, a biblical
studies major from Austin.
The Dean Adams Achievement awards were presented to
students who overcame some type of obstacle to achieve their
ACU education. Recipients included Maleika Ann Fitzgerald, a
communication disorders major from Abilene; Aimee Bunting,
an agricultural business major from Clyde; and Misty Rose
Swain, an environmental science major from Salinas,
Ten seniors were honored with LeMoyne G. Lewis Alphi Chi
awards for perfect 4.0 grade point averages:
- Rebecca Ann Barthlow, psychology major from
- Matthew Richard Bower, biochemistry major from
- Brittany Ann Huckabee, electronic media major from
- Andrew Johnson, Greek major from Wichita Falls,
- Maria Helia Marrs, exercise science major from
- Angie Lyn Meister, accounting major from Scottsdale,
- Virginia Faye Milstead, English major from Peoria,
- Diane Elizabeth Moulder, communication disorders
major from Grandview,
- Sherry Ann Sakamoto, elementary education major from
- Carey Blythe Sharp, biochemistry major from
The senior with the second highest grade point average
also was honored, Heather MaryAnne Zimbal, English major
from Lubbock, who had a 3.974 grade point average.
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- Last update: May 8, 1999
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